Previous month:
November 2009
Next month:
January 2010

December 2009

Keeping Warm on a Cold Day Afloat

When people learn that we live aboard year round in Maine .. yada yada yada .. there are predictable questions. This time of year the most frequently asked question is  ... "How do you keep warm?" or some variation thereof.

The answer is very well, thank you. 

Oops --  before I go any farther let me say that we paid for our heating system -- bought it long before blogging was in my vocabulary. EW does the normal maintenace and we hire someone and pay for parts when we have more advanced issues. The company who made our system had an issue a number of years ago and our unit was one of those that got too hot. They corrected it for us as they did for all others who had the same problem. We are customers and I have not been paid to endorse the product. 

May I continue? Thank you.

Before I knew that living aboard was probable or even possible for us, EW had been aware of the Hurricane Heating Systems. He'd seen them on display at a boat show and was intrigued. I was oblivious. He had brought home material.

Fast forward a few months. On Saturday, January 19, 2002, we fall for La Luna and make an appointment with a real estate agent to sell our house. On Sunday, we spend a LOT of time talking about this momentous move and where we would dock the boat. So we hop in the car and drive to the area marinas. We don't see anyone on the docks to talk to except at one marina where there are only two boats in slips. (Turns out that marina had stopped allowing liveaboards. The boats belonged to two folks who owned condominiums on the property.) One of those boat owners was on board ... wait for it ... drum roll ... installing a Hurricane Heating System.  Really. The whole move aboard was full of those serendipitous moments. 

So we met Mike, who was the area's unofficial ambassador of Hurricane Heaters. He invited us back on Monday evening to bask in the warmth and discuss living aboard -- something he and his wife had done .. year round .. in Maine. 

Fast forward 9 months to September 2002. We were now in a slip in South Portland -- at the marina Mike recommended. We had neighbors -- many with Hurricane Heaters -- and it was time to purchase and install ours. EW and Mike were going to handle most or all of the installation. I was going to offer opinions, stay out of the way -- but be on hand for snaking. (I hate real snakes but am a whiz at sending one of those metal ones through holes. It's a talent and I have it.)

First, we had to plan the heating system. Well, first EW had to plan the heating system -- but I helped. My big contribution occurred when I was listening as Mike and EW were talking. I'm not a mechanical genius but I did get the gist of what was being decided as they were discussing thermostats. "So how many of these thermostat things can we have?" I asked. MIke glanced at EW and said, "Um, how many do you want?" 

"Four," I said.

Mike looked stunned, but EW only rolled his eyes and smiled (He is used to me.)and asked, "Where would you put four thermostats?" 

"One in the master stateroom, one in the main saloon, one in the forward (guest) cabin, and one in the master head." 


And that is how I became known as a "High Maintenance" live-aboard wife. I don't care. I'm warm.

More on the actual units -- now made and sold by ITR - International Thermal Research - in a later post.  It is Friday and nearing 5:00 PM or 1700 hours and time to make the pizza. 






Preparing for the Storm - II

Oopsie. We weren't quite as prepared for the storm as we thought. Do you ever get caught out during a new season? Such as forgetting sunscreen the first day of golfing, or getting your snow tires on, but leaving the windshield scraper in the shed? I correctly tied the lines -- but EW and I forgot to prepare La Luna's interior for a storm. Usually we check around for what can move - just as we do when we are setting sail. 

In our case, the coffee maker goes in the sink, all cans and jars and lose items are removed from counters, the I-Pods go in a drawer and my pretty shells get put in the cupboard -- Oh! And pillows go in the booze cupboard!  

Nothing was broken last night -- but after I published the blog about what it is like down here in a storm, all H.E. Double Hockey Sticks broke out. Someone I follow on Twitter said that the ocean buoys clocked 45 knot winds and 20 foot waves. We didn't have 20 foot waves but we did have the winds - and with no mast  we rolled. We rolled a lot. We rolled a whole bunch of lots!

So, we there we would be, watching a movie and hit by a big one. Something would clang or we would hear that sliding, sliding, sliding FALLING sound of something going across a counter and onto the sole. All the while we are scrambling to untangle ourselves from each other, the cords and the (now) bungeed dehumidifier. (Think of being in a large U-shaped restaurant booth and being at the bottom of the U with all sorts of stuff under the table or across the cushion. That was us.) (That was we?) (We were those people?) (Whatever.)

Where was I? Oh yeah. We would scramble for some sounds, recognize and dismiss others,  or look at each other and say, "Did you hear that?" If we couldn't identify it, out we'd go. In one instance, I got up to go forward for a banging sound. "It's on deck!" I said. EW scrambled out and up we went. 

The boat was rolling as it does when we are in heavy swells with no wind or steadying sail. We had to definitely use one hand for ourselves as we moved forward. We were safe, but didn't want to fall and damage the plastic or get bruised. (Note that damaging the cover is worse than being bruised. My priorities are in the right place for living aboard.)

The cover has four supports and the one forward of where the mast should be is not really holding anything up. We know that now because there it was, swinging like the pendulum of a Grandfather Clock, and banging into the cabin top. I held it in place while EW got some strapping and a knife. (He had to go below for the knife as that is something else we forgot to do -- put a knife on deck once the cover is on -- just for this reason.)

We tied the offending post and then looked out the door of the cover to see how we were doing on the dock. Just fine. My lines all held. The cleats were doing their job and the dock wasn't moving as much as we expected. La Luna was rolling worse than she did in the Patriot's Week Storm. Guess the weight of the mast is really important to the stability of our boat. 

Should be an interesting winter.

What Is It Really Like In a Storm on the Dock?

I am going to try to write eloquently and tell you what it feels like to live aboard today. We are having a winter storm -- certainly not a horrible storm as they go. The winds aren't from the Northeast, but more East. It is nearing high tide and we are getting some wave action but we have had much worse. 

This storm is uncomfortable and it is hard to concentrate on detail tasks -- the boat is rocking, there are lots of noises: 

  • Our sharp knives move a bit in their wall container and clatter not quite in unison as the boat moves. 
  • We have no mast in this winter as it is being repaired. The wooden support EW installed in its place dances a bit on the mast collar, creating a wood-scraping-and-bouncing-on-metal sound. 
  • The shrink wrap cover is holding well, I can hear the sleet hit the plastic and hear the cover and PVC supports flex. 
  • EW is taking a nap on the other end of the dinette and I can hear his sleeping/breathing sounds when the wind abates for seconds. 
  • When we are rocked by a group of large swells there are a myriad of items wiggling and jiggling.
  • And underneath it all, the cause of all of theses sounds, the wind which has blown over 20 all day and now appears to be closer to 30 with stronger gusts. 

At this close to high tide the boat rocks constantly from side to side with little hops (if a 47 foot, 19 ton boat can be said to hop) fore and aft depending on the direction of a particular gust. The six lines that hold us to the dock are doing a great job. Three have snubbers on them and I suspect that those lines have stretched some. When the snubbers are working properly the action as we are blown away from the dock is slowed a bit with a slightly more gentle end point before the boat rolls back towards the dock. When the snubbed lines are stretched, the other lines catch us with a hard jerk to port and an immediate roll to starboard.

This is the kind of day when I think i am getting exercise just by remaining upright in my seat, making minute shifts with my upper body to keep myself where I want to be. (Who am I kidding? Minute - as in tiny - and my upper body have nothing in common!) But I do have to make constant physical adjustments to remain upright at the table -- especially since I had to use my back cushion to keep a cupboard door from banging. The door is open for my computer cables and while I can fix it so that the cables can be used with the door shut -- I don't want to go off line to do that.

We have heard voices on the dock today, mostly folks checking their lines. When we hear that, we go out and offer to help -- we don't want anyone out there alone today. The docks are slippery with snow and icy rain and it is wise to wear cleats when we leave the boat.

For the most part, we have stayed inside this bouncing cocoon. It is nasty out there. We have worked, planned a shopping trip, and eaten chocolate. Much like those of you who are home today. The difference -- our home is definitely on the move -- out and back, up and down, as the wind and tide try to free her from the dock and she gets pulled back by our desire and lines to keep her attached to shore. For now. 

EW banging the plastic cover to rewmove the snow..jpg

Good morning! We were awakened at low tide when the wind was from the Northeast at around 20 mph, creating that wave motion I talked about yesterday. With all our planning, I forgot to put bungee cord around the dehumidifier (one built for homes and on wheels) and I heard it rolling around the saloon. As the morning progressed and the tide went down the motion lessened a lot but heavy, wet snow is falling -- and sticking to the cover. One of us will have to go on deck periodically to bang the plastic and get the snow to move. 

View from the cockpit: EW getting rid of snow in the cover. We don't need a roof rake! 

/Media Card/BlackBerry/pictures/EW banging the plastic cover to rewmove the snow..jpg

Winter Storm Predicted - How Live-Aboards Prepare

This is a beautiful December morning. Crisp and clear.   However, the "Weather Liars" -- as EW calls those who attempt to predict the future -- are calling for a nasty day tomorrow. 

Mariner's Weather Prediction for 12/9/09

 All of you may be worried about the snow and ice -- and potential hazardous driving or cancellations.  We focus on the winds.  The first site that comes up on my bookmarks is Coastal Maine Weather  -- and at left you will see what they are saying about Wednesday.

This is not good for two reasons: First, due to the predicted strength of the winds. We start preparing if we hear 30 knots from the Northeast.  They (whoever "they" are) Are predicting in MPH -- So we are looking at 40 to 60+ knots of wind on Wednesday.  Oh joy.

Second, the worst of the winds are predicted to be from the East or the Northeast and near high tide on Wednesday afternoon/evening. High tide is at 4:53 PM tomorrow.  Of that we can be sure.  (That whole "time and tide wait for no man" thing -- that is true.)  The only time we really have potential severe problems at the dock are when we exceed 30 knots of wind 3 hours before and after high tide. Oh joy again.

So, if they are right -- and we have to prepare as if they are always right -- we will have a wild ride tomorrow afternoon.  Oh -- why high tide and from the Northeast?  Because our marina is protected from "fetch" from any other direction. East winds aren't pleasant but they aren't as bad as Northeast. That is the direction when there is the longest "fetch" -- distance for the wind driven waves to build in strength. As for the tide, at low tide we are protected by mud banks. The same mud that let us get stuck (in the middle of the channel) at low tide this fall, protects us from wave action during Northeast storms. 

So this morning I doubled up on the stern line and posted a photo of it. Then realized that I had messed up. In addition to strong and extra lines, you have to place them properly. We have two bow lines on always (because they are hard to put on through the shrink wrap) and attach a second stern line before storms. One of each of them is on a snubber -- a shock absorber for boat lines.  One of the spring lines is on a snubber, too.  The extra bow and stern lines don't have a snubber so they are tied a bit longer than those with snubbers -- to let the snubbers work. (Why does spell check recognize snubber but not its plural? Weird.) 

ALL lines have chafe guard -- in our case old fire hose -- at every chock and cleat. That is where I made my mistake this morning. If you look at the first photo, the eye of the second line (the white one) is around the dock cleat and the chafe guard at that end is useless.  When I re-did it, I put the eye around the boat cleat and the bitter end around the dock, using the chafe guard in the chock on the boat and around the cleat on the dock. 

All set. Now we get on with our day. I'll let you know how tomorrow goes.  Could be nothing -- could be a good story.  

 Three photos of lines: the bow lines, stern lines bad and stern lines good.